Belfast Telegraph

Mairia Cahill: Let me be frank, my haters are a sick joke

Mairia Cahill has been subjected to vitriolic abuse on Twitter since she reviewed the Frankie Boyle gig for this newspaper. But, she writes, the online trolls will never silence her

Comedian Frankie Boyle
Comedian Frankie Boyle
Tom Hartley at the Frankie Boyle protest at the Feile offices in Belfast

Frankie, do you remember me? I jest, but only just. On Friday I thought I'd go to a gig, write up my thoughts, that my piece on his comedy routine would be chip paper by Saturday afternoon and that I'd never have to speak about the Glaswegian again.

Thanks to the immediacy of the internet I've been batting off tweets like flies ever since, answering the good, the bad and the ugly and marvelling at how obtuse people can be.

If I've heard "why did you go to a gig to be offended?" once, I've heard it a few hundred times.

I didn't go to be offended, as it happens. I was asked to write my thoughts and it would have been unfair to write those thoughts without actually going.

Strange as it may seem, it's impossible to write an opinion piece on a gig without being there to see it.

Ironically, those who are offended at my being offended by a comedian who told offensive jokes at a community festival have kept this story going on and on and on. So, thank you for that. Because, with every share, with every paper bought and with every mad comment left on the Belfast Telegraph site and sent in my direction, more people have become aware of what type of "comedy" Frankie Boyle performs.

Many more have thought about the contradiction of when a festival that claims inclusivity books an act that even it realised was wrong, when it issued a public apology for any offence it caused by booking him in the first place.

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It's the Streisand effect in reverse: people who think you're in favour of censoring, who don't want people to read your piece, but share it anyway to give off about it.

The type of story that means, when Frankie Boyle comes around again, those who didn't know his comedy, and now do not want to, won't buy tickets.

The "don't rain on my parade" gang who want to listen to him can knock themselves out - just don't expect the rest of us to be impressed.

And, you can be guaranteed, should Feile an Phobail book this act ever again, the fallout will be huge.

Well done to those parents and the Stephen Hartley Foundation for taking a stand in advance of the Boyle gig. They can sit back safe in the knowledge that they took on the powerful within their community - and won.

You cannot defend the indefensible. There was nothing more poignant than seeing the pictures of people with Down's standing up for themselves outside Feile headquarters with placards. They didn't need to protest on the night. The moral argument was won before the gig began.

So, why were the Twitter brigade's collective knickers in a twist?

Because they have a skewed moral compass when it comes to offence. They will defend Feile because they see an opinion on Boyle as an attack on an entire community (even though only a tiny minority of west Belfast actually watched the gig) and because they don't take criticism lightly.

It's always the way. There is no defence of Feile in this one - it apologised itself before Frankie had even taken to the stage.

The measure of the fact that it knows it can't defend the type of jokes told on the night is in the silence and complete go-to-ground tactics that it's been employing ever since.

Frankie may have a right to tell offensive jokes (though it doesn't mean we all have to like it), but, for the record, here are some of the things tweeted to, or about, me since the piece was written.

There were many positive, but I've decided to include the negative so that people can see that, really, the majority of criticism was not even attempting to defend Boyle, but rather going on the attack in order to show a collective wounded Twitter pride instead.

From a "comedian", Ryan Cullen. "Jesus Christ @BelTel, This has got to be one of the worst articles I've ever read." Michael Hegney writes: "Just read that Mairia Cahill piece… Belfast's Katie Hopkins." I hadn't even put pen to paper and one tweeter using the handle @JoeBhoyCelts had written "Big report from Mairia Cahill in tomorrow's Belfast Telegraph … why can't people see she's a plant?" It drew a wry smile as I pondered whether I was a thistle or a cactus.

@craigfitzsimon1, whose timeline is a sight to behold, had this to say. "… shd we resurrect the 'Brave Wee Angel of West Belfast for President' campaign? If that doesn't show the measure of intellect, how about this gem from @GethingsH: "She's trying to make a few shekels by being a contrarian anti-republican hack." Gethings also reckons: "It will be sharing a platform with the Israeli ambassador before you know it!" Ah, Israel and Palestine. This featured, too, owing to the fact I quoted Frankie Boyle, using quotation marks (because that is what you do when you quote someone) when he referred to the Palestinian situation as "apartheid".

For this, I was told by the rather aptly named @Slabbercart that I was a "Zionist apologist" and "selling out principles on Palestine in a s***** Zionist newspaper", which was favourited by - wait for it - the West Belfast Anti-Racism World Cup Twitter account. @muuuuaah's opinion is at least short: "that Mairia Cahill freak".

So, that's the type of rational debate on Twitter.

I know I'm better off for reading it.

I'm not sure if any of the above are even ardent Frankie Boyle fans; some seem to raise a tweet no matter what I do.

That tells me I'm doing something right. And I owe them one, because they helped keep the piece in the 'most read' section for two days in a row.

And, because of that, the Belfast Telegraph might send me to review Jake O'Kane next. Now, wouldn't that be a laugh?

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